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Crossroads (Jujiro)

This rare Kinugasa masterpiece, together with his earlier A Page of Madness, testifies to the sophistication of the Japanese silent film. The story is told largely in flashbacks in which past and present, real and imaginary are intertwined. Set in the 18th century in the Yoshiwara brothel district of Tokyo, the plot involves a young man who is blinded in a fight and believes he has killed his rival. His sister, desperate for money, is forced to submit to a lecherous official whom she kills in self defense. John Gillett of the British Film Institute writes:
“(Crossroads) shares with A Page of Madness a quite startling visual surface, taking in a German-style back street decor and low life milieu as well as impressionistic montage effects owing something to the Russians and, in the opulent Yoshiwara sequences (with Sugiyama's camera tracking through gaudily decorated streets with their flashing lights, pushing crowds and gaudily painted geishas), to the Sternberg of the same period. The angst-ridden story (again echoing the German street film) is told with extreme emphasis on physical details.... Above all, one senses an unusually refined response to film as a dramatic means of expression--Kinugasa moves his camera with an aptness and ease equalled only by the best American silent directors, continually pointing up details in the shabby apartments and garish streets, and tilting and panning in a way seemingly years ahead of its time. In fact, both the Kinugasas now available, and other Japanese silent films viewed elsewhere, suggest that the real liberation of the camera from a recording to an interpretative instrument may have begun in the Japanese Twenties” (in Monthly Film Bulletin, 1973).

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